Save our sixth forms

Francis Beckett ("Shrink the school, save the child", 6 November) overlooks several advantages of retaining sixth forms in secondary schools. First, many students need or prefer continuity of education by teachers whom they already know. Second, those small classes which are defined as financial liabilities are educationally advantageous in terms of pupil-teacher ratios. Third, many non-academic sixth-formers do not go to university and so do not experience a "catastrophic change" at 18-plus. Fourth, seeing the different lifestyle and treatment of sixth-formers enables their younger peers to realise that a school is not a monolithic community; instead, like society, it encompasses a wide variety of experiences.

Bob Ballard

This article first appeared in the 13 November 1998 issue of the New Statesman, Why gays become politicians